This landmark at a popular waterfront park in Bellingham is coming down. Here’s why.

Enjoy the sunset at Boulevard Park in Bellingham

People enjoy a September sunset from Boulevard Park on the bay in Bellingham, Wash.
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People enjoy a September sunset from Boulevard Park on the bay in Bellingham, Wash.

One of Boulevard Park’s best-known features will soon be history, and its removal is part of a larger project that will restrict access to one of the city’s most popular parks.

The work, which is expected to last from May to September, will cause intermittent closures in parts of the waterfront park during the $3 million project, according to Nicole Oliver, development manager for the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department.

The project has two parts.

One involves demolishing the roughly 40-foot wooden overpass that allowed pedestrians to cross the railroad tracks at the north end of the park, Oliver said to The Bellingham Herald.

“The overpass is beyond repair and will not be replaced,” Oliver said.

The other is rerouting all of the park’s utilities — water, sewer and electricity — from the wooden overpass, where they’re all attached. The utilities will then be buried in the ground.

Also referred to as a trestle bridge, the estimated 40-year-old vertical structure has been closed since February 2016 because of rot and damage caused by carpenter ants.

“They infested the structure to the point of making it not structurally sound. They damaged it,” Oliver said. “Some of the key support beams were what were damaged.”

Building another overpass would have required the city of Bellingham to build a steel structure that also complied with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“I think people understand that it’s beyond repair, unfortunately. It had carpenter ants and other rot. Rebuilding it would be very expensive,” Leslie Bryson, director of the Parks Department, told The Bellingham Herald.

Boulevard Trestle.JPG

The overpass was built in 1979 to give pedestrians who were on South State Street a way to cross over the train tracks on their way down to Boulevard Park. At the time, there was no other such access.

There’s now a pedestrian train crossing where the South Bay Trail empties into the north end of Boulevard Park.

A crane will be used to help demolish the overpass, part of of which arches over the railroad tracks.

“They’re not just going to break it up on top of the tracks,” Oliver said of work crews. “They’re going to have to carefully remove it.”

As for the utilities, they will be rerouted along part of the park’s shoreline and up Bayview Drive.

Bayview is the street that empties into park’s parking lot. On any warm, sunny day the street and parking lot are packed with vehicles.

Visitors will need to find their patience and other ways to get to Boulevard Park.

“It will be a construction project down Bayview Drive, so traffic will be managed. There will be flaggers. It will be congested. You might want to park and walk,” Oliver said.

Boulevard Trestle.JPG
The pedestrian overpass over the railroad tracks at the north end of Boulevard Park in Bellingham. The city closed the trestle in February 2016 after finding wood rot in the upper beams. The Bellingham Herald file Staff

The entire project is expected to wrap up by September. Real estate excise tax and the Greenways levy will pay for the project.

Because of the work and how it will affect park access, the city has canceled its summer concerts in the park at Boulevard this year.

The city had wanted to time this project with its environmental cleanup of a former gas manufacturing plant on the north end of Boulevard Park.

That cleanup was expected to begin in 2021.

But the demolition of the overpass had to be done sooner because of safety.

“The structure is so unsound,” Oliver said. “Our engineers said you can’t wait until you do the cleanup.”

To keep an eye on how access to different parts of Boulevard Park will be affected the project, keep an eye on Bellingham Parks’ Facebook page.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.